What's the deal with missing content in Game Boy games?

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DRW
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What's the deal with missing content in Game Boy games?

Post by DRW » Sat May 25, 2019 6:35 am

Often, when there's a Game Boy game that's a port of a Super Nintendo game, there is stuff missing that has nothing to do with technical limitations.
For example, most fighting games don't have all characters.

But why is this the case? Mostly, people name the memory limitations. But is that really a reason?

After all, Game Boy cartridges can have up to 8 MB. So, there's no actual "The Game Boy is a weaker platform, therefore, the cartridges have less memory" issue.

Also: "Killer Instinct" and "Street Fighter II" are both 512 KB and they had to cut characters.
"Mortal Kombat II" is 256 KB and they had to cut characters.
Why isn't "Mortal Kombat II" simply 512 KB as well, so that it could include all characters and a bunch more backgrounds?

What's the actual reason that Game Boy games had less content even though the game could have as much space as the older Super Nintendo games?

Is it about the costs? Then why does a relatively obscure fighting game like "Battle Arena Toshinden" get 512 KB while they rather cut corners for "Mortal Kombat II" instead of doubling the space and providing a gameplay-complete portable version of their number 1 hit?
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pwnskar
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Re: What's the deal with missing content in Game Boy games?

Post by pwnskar » Sat May 25, 2019 6:59 am

My guess would be cost in hardware and/or development time vs expected sales and whether the studios had other projects with higher priority at the same time. Staffing could also play in. Sometimes you just don't have enough people to throw at a project.

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Re: What's the deal with missing content in Game Boy games?

Post by lidnariq » Sat May 25, 2019 6:59 am

If my memory serves me, Game Boy games were sold at a lower price point than games for TV-based consoles so there was less money to spend on ROM size.

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Re: What's the deal with missing content in Game Boy games?

Post by tepples » Sat May 25, 2019 11:51 am

DRW wrote:Often, when there's a Game Boy game that's a port of a Super Nintendo game, there is stuff missing that has nothing to do with technical limitations.
For example, most fighting games don't have all characters.
Super NES sprites can cover 272 out of 256 horizontal pixels (106%). Game Boy sprites can cover only 80 out of 160 (50%). This means characters have to be smaller, and inherently larger characters (such as Zangief and Dhalsim from Street Fighter II) may end up compromised. There's also no CHR ROM banking on Game Boy and no DMA prior to Game Boy Color, which makes transferring tiles from ROM to VRAM somewhat of a bottleneck. Nor would it be useful to include those characters whose moveset doesn't reduce well to two buttons.
DRW wrote:After all, Game Boy cartridges can have up to 8 MB.
Only one 8 MB game was ever produced for that platform, and 8 MB wasn't available in the earlier days. And both early and late in the platform's life, Nintendo charged more for larger cartridges. I could answer this in more detail if I had a graph of ROM size with respect to release date. Is there a way to get this information out of catalog files made available by No-Intro?

SuperWill24
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Re: What's the deal with missing content in Game Boy games?

Post by SuperWill24 » Sat May 25, 2019 1:33 pm

I think the main reason was most likely budget-related issues. Also, Game Boy cartridges (starting from 1991 or so) have an average size of 128kb (before that, 32kb and 64kb were much more common, with 128kb being used for some "larger" games, and at least one 256kb cartridge (Gauntlet II)), as opposed to the NES which has an average size of 256kb.
But it still doesn't make sense with MK2, considering the same developer (Probe Software) also developed NHL '96 and '97 and FIFA International Soccer and FIFA Soccer '96, which were all 512kb. So why would they make sports games fit on larger cartridges than fighting games?

Two more mysteries that I could NEVER figure out:
1. Why is Burai Fighter Deluxe called "Deluxe" when it's inferior to the NES game Burai Fighter? It's also missing two stages compared to the NES version which are both top-down shooter stages, yet both versions are, oddly enough, 64kb in size. Which makes sense from a GB game from around 1990, but still, how can it be missing content if they're both the same size? They also seem to be by the same developer, so it's likely not programming management issues.
2. Alfred Chicken plays a reverse role in that the NES version is missing about half the stages compared to the Game Boy version, yet both versions are 128kb in size. Why is this?

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Re: What's the deal with missing content in Game Boy games?

Post by tokumaru » Sat May 25, 2019 2:21 pm

Street Fighter II on the Game Boy renders sprites on the background, rather than using sprites, doesn't it? If that's the case, sprite coverage shouldn't be an issue (it'd take longer to draw large characters though, since they occupy more tiles).

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Re: What's the deal with missing content in Game Boy games?

Post by tepples » Sat May 25, 2019 7:00 pm

That and drawing software sprites onto the background is slow. The closest comparison would be the ZX Spectrum, which uses a 1bpp frame buffer and an 8080 family CPU at a similar clock rate. You didn't get a lot of 60 fps on that platform.

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Re: What's the deal with missing content in Game Boy games?

Post by tokumaru » Sat May 25, 2019 10:00 pm

tepples wrote:That and drawing software sprites onto the background is slow.
Heh, I seem to be having a problem with choosing the appropriate words these days, because this is actually what I was trying to say. I didn't mean that the artist would take longer to draw, I meant that the program would take longer to write the graphics to the background tiles.

I think that the Mortal Kombat games on the Master System did that as well, and that left very few tiles available for the actual background, so the arenas ended up looking pretty bland.

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